Interview with Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine

The Earthquake Machine

The book every girl should read, and every girl’s parents hope she’ll never read.

Synopsis: The Earthquake Machine tells the story of 14 year-old Rhonda. On the outside, everything looks perfect in Rhonda’s world, but at home Rhonda has to deal with a manipulative father who keeps her mentally ill mother hooked on pharmaceuticals. The only reliable person in Rhonda’s life is her family’s Mexican yardman, Jesús. But when the INS deports Jesús back to his home state of Oaxaca, Rhonda is left alone with her increasingly painful family situation.

Determined to find her friend Jésus, Rhonda seizes an opportunity to run away during a camping trip with friends to Big Bend National Park. She swims to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande and makes her way to the border town of Milagros, Mexico. There a peyote- addled bartender convinces her she won’t be safe traveling alone into the country’s interior. So with the bartender’s help, Rhonda cuts her hair and assumes the identity of a Mexican boy named Angel. She then sets off on a burro across the desert to look for Jesús. Thus begins a wild adventure that fulfills the longing of readers eager for a brave and brazen female protagonist.

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Author Interview:

Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Earthquake Machine?

A. I started out wanting to write a novel about river rafting on the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. But once I started writing the story of an American girl who runs away to Mexico just unfurled.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. I want readers to understand that women have the option to buck all the societal pressures and limitations placed on them.

And I want to be an example of that myself. So far in my life I’ve been a forest firefighter, a construction worker, a Hollywood screenwriter. Women make up only 10% of each of those professions. I want women and girls to know it’s okay to take risks, make art, have adventures, and do things we aren’t “supposed” to do.

Q. How much of the book is realistic?

A. Rhonda’s family isn’t like my own family at all. Luckily, I have very sweet and supportive parents. And most of the book is very fantastical. But I tried to be true to the spirit of what it’s like to come-of-age as a woman; and also show Mexico through the eyes of an American girl.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?

A. Not a thing! I worked on the novel—off and on—for 9 years, and by now it’s just the way I want it.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

A. I drafted the book when I was working construction in Durango, Colorado. The hardest part was waking up before dawn to write before going to work outside in the cold all day.

Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

A. I think I learned a lot about tenacity; and I learned that I can show up at the page to write everyday, even when life is busy.

Q. Did you have a musical playlist you listened to when writing The Earthquake Machine? If so, what kind of music?

A. I didn’t listen to music at all when I wrote THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE. But now when I write I listen to the album THE SUBURBS by ARCADE FIRE.

Q. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

A. In elementary school, my nickname was “Bookworm.” But I didn’t have the confidence to try to write myself until I was in my early 20s. The realization that I wanted to be a writer dawned on me slowly.

Q. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

A. It’s hard to pick one. But my favorite YA author is Francesca Lia Block. I love her WEETZIE BAT series. She does a great job writing hip, edgy, magical stories.

Q. Tell us your latest news.

A. I’ve written another novel that’s about my personal experiences as a forest firefighter. It hasn’t been published yet, but it’s been optioned for film; and I wrote the screenplay. Director Peyton Wilson has been attached to the project. The script should go out to actors soon!

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A. It’s okay to try new and daring things. If you have a dream---to paint, draw, act, travel, write a book, go to law school, whatever---then really go for it! Find friends who will support you every step of the way; and start taking tiny steps towards your goal. I think you’ll be amazed at what you are capable of doing!

Author Bio:  Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

1 comment:

  1. I love this! A great story and a gutsy young girl. A book Ill watch for!


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